Garage Sale Flipping Side Hustle

Updated on January 19th, 2022
Fact checked by John Rampton

John Rampton

John Rampton is an entrepreneur and connector. When he was 23 years old while attending the University of Utah he was hurt in a construction accident. His leg was snapped in half. He was told by 13 doctors he would never walk again. Over the next 12 months he had several surgeries, stem cell injections and learned how to walk again. During this time he studied and mastered how to make money work for you, not against you. He has since taught thousands through books, courses and written over 5000 articles online about finance, entrepreneurship and productivity. He has been recognized as the Top Online Influencers in the World by Entrepreneur Magazine, Finance Expert by Time and Annuity Expert by Nasdaq. He is the Founder and CEO of Due.... Read More

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Garage Sale Flipping Side Hustle

I love side hustles. And apparently — you do too. Zapier reports that one in three Americans — 34 percent — have a side hustle. Moreover, that number is likely to grow as more people start exploring new jobs and opportunities — which has definitely been the case due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the economy’s attempts to normalize, millions of workers have opted not to return to work. Some are predicting another “Great Resignation” wave by January. Because of this, many people worry about where they will end up and how they will earn a living.

Enter side hustling.

Even if you aren’t a part of the “Great Resignation,” having an additional income source can help you pay down your faster. Or, you can simply save this extra income. I mean, approximately 25% of American households don’t have an emergency fund. Additionally, 42% of non-retired adults under 30 do not have any retirement savings.

At the same time, you might not always have the time or energy to do a side hustle. If you’re a parent working full-time, I’m sure that after the kids hit the hay, you’re not far behind. But, what if I told you that was a way to make six figures just by selling the junk found in a garage.

Sound too good to be true? Well, this money-making venture is precisely what “Meet Rob and Melissa Stephenson” of The Flea Market Flipper have been able to successfully achieve.

What is Flea Market Flipping?

Have you ever caught Flea Market Flip on HGTV? If so, you know how this works. Instead of stocks or real estate, this is a buy low/sell high strategy applied to everyday items.

More specifically, this involves purchasing merchandise on the cheap, then selling it for a higher price to others. Okay — I know this isn’t a groundbreaking idea, but you have to be inspired by the people who have the guts to dig in and make an idea like this work for themselves. For years, people have been scouring flea markets or garage sales for deals on antiques, electronics, and home appliances. You can also find sellable items at thrift stores, going out of business events, or online platforms like Craigslist, eBay, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace.

From there, a product can be sold at the exact location where it was initially purchased. Or it can be sold elsewhere.

How can you make money doing this? Well, someone could be selling a large item, such as a piece of furniture, because they’re moving and don’t want to lug it around. Other times, it’s just a matter of timing. For example, someone might be planning a camping trip and realize that they need to replace their bused kayak. So instead of dropping the cash on a new one, they spot a reasonably used item online.

Why Flea Market Flipping?

It’s essential to stay up-to-date on new and innovative ways of making money. But, I’m also always curious about why people choose money-making endeavors.

For Rob? It’s the thrill of the hunt. He’s been scavenging for deals and flipping these items since he was 16 years old. But, in addition to the deal-hunting, Rob found that it was a great way to make money on the side, especially when he and Melissa got married.

“It was our fun money,” he said. “When we needed extra money to go on vacation, when we needed extra money to fix a car, something like that, I’d go out, and I’d flip something, I’d find something, I’d buy it, I resell it, and we made money that way.”

However, Rob and Melissa came to a crossroads when she was pregnant with their third child, and his work cut his health insurance.

“So, we had to decide, okay, do you go find something else to do for our health insurance?” says Melissa. “Or do we look at what we’ve been doing on the side and jump in with both feet and do it full time?”

At that point, they decided to turn their side hustle into a full-time gig.

Since flea market flipping is entirely flexible, the Stephensons’ can seamlessly balance their personal and business lives. For example, they can drop their kids off at school and then pick up an item that a friend wants to get rid of. Items can also be packaged, cleaned, photographed, or listed until it’s time to pick up the kids from school.

Work-life Integration.

But, setting their own schedules isn’t the only way that Stephenson’s are able to spend quality time together. Their kids also help out with the family business.

Since they were babies, the Stephensons’ children have explored the local flea market with their parents in backpacks or strollers. Also, many tasks of flea market flipping, like listing and packaging, can be done from home; they can help each other with the kids when needed.

Additionally, flipping at flea markets can pretty much be done anywhere, even spontaneously.

Recently, the Stephenson family took a five-week trip around the United States. While traveling from Florida to California to Washington to Michigan and back home, they made money. Over $24,000, to be exact.

Who wouldn’t do anything for a gig like that?

But, how exactly did they make that kind of loot while on the road? It was pretty simple.

While vising friends, family, and National Parks, they packed up their trailer with 14 items. Best of all? It only set them back $870. They then sold the following four items on eBay to make a cool $24,340;

  • Bus wash. They paid $500 for the car wash, listed it, and sold it for $14,500.
  • Ice cream machine. This was picked up for free and sold for $8.500.
  • Wallpaper stream. They snagged this business for $35 and got $750 for it.
  • Dance Dance Revolution. This game was purchased for 50 bucks and sold for $600.

Rob and Melissa did set up their store in advance. And, they let the buyers know that the items wouldn’t ship until they got home. But you still can’t beat making that kind of money while on vacation!

What Does It Take to be a Successful Garage Sale Flipper?

Whenever I hear about people’s journeys to wealth and the reasons behind their unusual ventures as a way to make money, I am intrigued. I have heard so many stories of people like Rob and Melissa throughout my career.

When they met, Melissa was in a horse riding show in Orlando, and then, for ten years, she was a personal trainer before she decided to stay at home with the family. As for Rob, he held several jobs, including doing home inspections for insurance. But, as mentioned earlier, he’s been flipping for around 25 years.

Growing up, Rob was one of seven children. His parents would take him and his siblings to yard sales and thrift stores to provide for everyone. His parents then began reselling some of these items to make extra cash.

With his sister, Rob began flipping NordicTrack ski machines. They could get these machines at a bargain since people who relocated to Flordia no longer needed them. Depending on the model, Rob could buy one of these machines for $5 to $20 and sell it on eBay for $200 to $900. However, he did one for an impressive $1,700.

So, flipping was always in Rob’s nature. Melissa just happened to marry into it. So, when that took the leap of faith in 2016, making flipping a full-time career made sense.

Success Tips for Flipping Flea Markets

Want to become a garage sale flipper. Rob and Melissa suggest that you first go through your home and sell the stuff you’re no longer using. It’s hard parting with items. But, if you can’t think of the last time you used it, then you can sell it.

In good condition and of decent quality, you should be able to sell it for a reasonable price. For example, if you sell expensive items on eBay, you can make around 50% of the retail price and between 10 and 30% on apps like OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace.

Whether it is clothes, electronics, or appliances, they recommend brand-name merchandise. As a general rule, a brand name will always bring in more money than a lesser brand. So, to get your feet wet, try to find and sell ten to twenty items from your house.

After selecting the items you want to sell, look them up on the platform where you’ll be listing them. Since you’re just starting out, you might like to offer a lower price until you’ve earned some positive feedback. Also, they suggest that you filter your results for what these items sold for and not the current asking prices.

Then, list your items after they’ve been cleaned. When taking pictures, snap plenty of quality features so that potential customers can spot any flaws. You can then sell list these items on the platform of your choosing, such as eBay. Rob and Melissa advise crossposting across multiple platforms to speed up sales.

The Stephensons also recommend that you start selling small purchases. And, even better, items that you’re familiar with. For example, if you’re a mechanic, you have a decent idea of how much quality tools cost and what you may be able to get from them.

Other general tips for a successful flip

  • You should always bring cash to flea markets and garage sales. They also suggest that you build relationships with smaller vendors. And always set aside a budget beforehand.
  • It’s generally recommended for flippers to invest in appliances like electric cooktops.
  • eBay’s best times for posting items for sale are between 8-11 p.m. EST on Sundays and Thursdays.
  • Algorithms love consistency. The more often you use a platform, the more often people will see your items.
  • To prevent shipping costs from eating into your profits, use uShip, or another online marketplace for local freight providers. For example, Rob uses a logistics company that charges less than $300 to ship large items from Florida to Washington.

Obstacles to be aware of in garage sale flipping.

Like any other business endeavor, garage sale flipping has its fair share of challenges. They warn that there is a learning curve ahead. Getting it right takes practice and patience, even though this seems like a straightforward business idea. But, again, that’s why when getting started, you should start small by selling items that you already have collecting dust in your attic, basement, or spare room.

Some other obstacle to take note of? For example, you may underestimate shipping costs or overpay for an item. You may even have returned items because the description wasn’t correct, or you accidentally sent the wrong item to the wrong customer.

Additionally, garage sale flipping isn’t exactly a passive income. You still have to put in the work to hunt down items to sell. It also takes time to prepare the items for listing, like cleaning the items, taking pictures of them, and printing shipping labels.

And, don’t be surprised if some people assume that you can’t actually make a genuine living flipping yard sale items. You will be discouraged by other people who don’t have the vision or courage that you do.

Final Words of Advice

Rob and Melissa Stephenson prove that anyone can break free of the 9-to-5 grind. And, more importantly, create a lifestyle that encourages balance. Because of this, I love sharing these success stories.

Flipping flea markets is the kind of side hustle you can do as a hobby. It can be used to earn extra money to pay for what your regular income can’t handle. Plus, this type of flipping has the potential to eventually become a thriving business so that you can live the life you’ve always dreamed of.

Jeff Rose

Jeff Rose

Jeff Rose is an Iraqi Combat Veteran and founder of Good Financial Cents. He teaches people wealth hacking. He is a frequent on CNBC, Forbes, Nasdaq and many other publications. He is author of the book "Soldier of Finance: Take Charge of Your Money and Invest in your Future" where he teaches how he escaped from $20,000 in credit card debt to a life of wealth.

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